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Senate Gets Serious About Chemicals

PHOTO: The products and items that households we use every day have a mysterious side when it comes to exactly what chemicals are in them. Montana Sen. Baucus sits on a Senate committee pondering what to do about regulation and testing. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: The products and items that households we use every day have a mysterious side when it comes to exactly what chemicals are in them. Montana Sen. Baucus sits on a Senate committee pondering what to do about regulation and testing. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
August 5, 2013

BOZEMAN, Mont. - Many of the products used in households every day have a mysterious side when it comes to exactly what chemicals are in them. Montana Senator Max Baucus sits on a Senate committee pondering what to do about making sure those chemicals aren't harmful and weeding out the ones that are.

According to Chantel Schieffer, a Bozeman mom and member of Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund, the laws affecting chemicals haven't been revamped since 1976, and there are thousands more chemicals used in products today that aren't screened.

"Well, I am hopeful that Congress can find a path forward to help protect my family from exposure to known carcinogens in everyday products," Schieffer said.

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act was the focus of a hearing last week. It was introduced earlier this year, touted as a compromise bill that has industry and health watchdog backing.

Regulating the 80,000 different chemicals in use is a big project: only 200 have been safety-tested under the old law.

Schieffer has a year-old son, and is asking that the legislation pay close attention to those who are most vulnerable to chemical exposure.

"You know, it's an exciting time," she said. "There's a bi-partisan effort on the table, but families like mine need to be certain those chemicals will be screened for safety and appropriately regulated."

Industry concerns include trade secrets, expense and paperwork, especially when many product components and ingredients are imported. Many states have enacted their own laws for chemical safety, and there are questions about whether those laws would be become moot under new federal legislation.

Chemical Safety Improvement Act: S.1009.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT